HANCOCK COUNTY — Tom Whitten was on a bus heading home from a visit with friends and relatives a few states away when he found himself stranded in an unfamiliar city filled with unfamiliar faces.

When Tom was released from the hospital, he was dropped off at a local motel without any luggage or money. Weak and still disoriented, he needed a place to rest before trying to find a way back home.

“I had a motel clerk call from a local hotel trying to assist a traveler who had gotten stranded in our town. He had been traveling by bus and had a medical condition that landed him in the local hospital,” said Debbie Bruce of The Salvation Army of Hancock County. “The motel clerk was calling around trying desperately to help him with a few nights at the motel until he was ready to catch a bus back home.”

Tom was in a bind. His only income came from his Social Security benefits, so it wasn’t much. He was trying desperately to get an advance in order to purchase a bus ticket to get home. Tom started to worry that he’d be stuck on the streets without any help.

After Debbie got the call from the motel clerk, The Salvation Army immediately began making calls to local churches and other resources. Together, they were able to help Tom with lodging and meals. Tom was amazed how a group of strangers came together to help him get home. The unfamiliar sights and faces were now recognizable and comforting. It’s an experience Tom will forever be thankful for.

“Before I left the motel that afternoon, I talked to the motel clerk who called us seeking help for Tom,” Debbie said. “I wanted to thank her for making such a great effort on behalf of this stranger and asked her why she called me.”

The woman’s answer left Debbie speechless and brought her to tears.

“Her answer was simple,” Debbie said. “Because you helped me.”

Every day, The Salvation Army and donors like you come together and help others — sometimes to pay it forward.

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